SMUD to replace Country Day power lines by early 2020; back fields might be closed during upgrade

The buzz of the power lines above the back fields has been a Country Day trademark since the school opened in 1964. 

Starting this month, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) plans to replace the three power lines that run from the Hurley Substation (2101 Hurley Way) through Country Day to the Procter & Gamble plant (8201 Fruitridge Rd.) to increase their transmission capability. SMUD aims to finish work in early 2020, according to the company’s website.

Lines will be upgraded section by section (two towers at most), so the replacement process will take months, according to Mike Deis, director of substation, telecom and metering assets at SMUD. 

When work begins, SMUD will close off the tower area. Head of school Lee Thomsen said the back fields might be closed for some time in early November depending on the scope of the work. Electrical workers will have to work within the constraints of the weather, making planning difficult. 

 According to Thomsen, SMUD has been working closely with the school to lessen the effects of the closed fields on sports practices.  

 “The anticipated window of work falls right in between our fall and winter athletic seasons and should only have a minimal impact on our athletic program,” Thomsen said. 

SMUD completed a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) assessment to gauge how the replacement will affect the local environment. According to the assessment, there will be no impact on wildlife since SMUD is replacing existing lines, not installing new structures. 

SMUD will not impose any power outages, Deis said.

According to the company’s website, replacing the wires will allow SMUD to increase its overall transmission system flexibility and ensure reliable service, particularly in the high-demand summer months.

The current lines are pure aluminum, which isn’t as conductive as other metals and has an operating temperature limit. 

The new lines will still be aluminum but will contain a separate alloy core, which will increase the temperature limit and thus the amount of power that can be sent through the lines, according to SMUD electrical engineer Jose Hernandez.

Once the area surrounding the towers is cordoned off, Deis said, SMUD will bring in machines such as basket cranes to help workers access the lines. In some cases, they might climb the tower. Once the old lines are unsecured from the tower and attached to pulleys, they can be pulled down and rolled into drums. 

Next, the new lines will be rolled in, unspooled, slid through the pulleys and then held in place by machines called “tensioners” at the start and end of the lines. The workers will then climb the tower again, remove the lines from the pulleys and secure them to the tower. 

All in all, it will be several months before the distinctive buzz returns to Country Day.

By Nihal Gulati

Originally published in the Oct. 15 edition of the Octagon.

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